Cliff Swallow Close Up

We often see Cliff Swallows when paddling central Ohio’s reservoirs. While seeing them is not rare, getting a good picture of one is. During a recent outing on Griggs Reservoir we had the opportunity to use the canoe to our advantage. We positioned ourselves so that, sitting motionless, a light breeze propelled the canoe toward swallow nests located on the bridge support structure. By being very still we were able to get much closer than we had previously. Once the paddles were picked up to reposition the boat, the birds flew.

Typical Cliff Swallow nest location, Griggs Reservoir, Panasonic ZS50.

Cliff Swallows, Griggs Reservoir, Panasonic G7 Leica 100-400mm lens, cropped, (Donna).

A closer look, Panasonic G7 Leica 100-400mm lens, cropped, (Donna).


North end of Griggs Reservoir, Panasonic FZ200.



During our trip, which covered the length of the reservoir, there were plenty of things to see. This was a good thing because I was testing a new Sigma 18-300mm lens. The hope is that the lens, mounted on my DSLR, will do most of what my Panasonic FZ200 does, landscapes, close-ups of insects, and to some extent birds, but with more creative control and exposure latitude while still having the convenance of not having to switch lenses. In harsh light DSLR APS-C sensors tend to do better with highlights and shadows (exposure latitude) when compared to the much smaller sensor used in the FZ200. The Sigma lens is a story of compromises given that it goes from extreme wide angle to telephoto. It’s not a macro lens but will take reasonable pictures of “bugs” while at the same time doing a decent job with landscapes and birds that aren’t to far away. Overall I’m satisfied with it’s performance realizing it will never compete with fixed focal length lenses for ultimate sharpness. For those not familiar with sensor sizes see the chart below. I’ve also included the type of camera used for each picture should the reader be curious.



It’s the insect time of the year along the reservoir ensuring that there are plenty of fascinating subjects.

Fragile Forktail, Griggs Reservoir, Canon 60D with Sigma 18-300mm lens, (cropped).

Eastern Forktail (F), Griggs Reservoir, Canon 60D with Sigma 18-300mm lens, (cropped).

Familiar Bluet, Griggs Reservoir, Canon 60D with Sigma 18-300mm lens, (cropped).

Widow Skimmer (F) not fully developed, Griggs Reservoir, Panasonic G7 Leica 100-400mm lens, (Donna).

Eastern Pondhawk (M), Griggs Reservoir, Panasonic G7 Leica 100-400mm lens, cropped, (Donna).

Familiar Bluet, Griggs Reservoir, Panasonic G7 Leica 100-400mm lens, cropped, (Donna).

Bee on Milkweed flower, Griggs Park, Panasonic Zs50.

Eastern Amberwing, Griggs Reservoir, Panasonic G7 Leica 100-400mm lens, cropped, (Donna).

Happy Milkweed Beetles, Griggs Reservoir Park, Panasonic ZS50.


Reptiles and amphibian greeted us during our journey.

Bullfrog, Griggs Reservoir, Griggs Reservoir, Canon 60D with Sigma 18-300mm lens, (cropped).

Hiding, Griggs Reservoir, Panasonic G7 Leica 100-400mm lens, cropped, (Donna).

Very small Map Turtle, Griggs Reservoir, Panasonic G7 Leica 100-400mm lens, cropped, (Donna).

Looking at the other side, Griggs Reservoir, Panasonic G7 Leica 100-400mm lens, cropped, (Donna).


Other things also watched our passing.

White-tailed deer along the shore of Griggs Reservoir, Panasonic G7 Leica 100-400mm lens, cropped, (Donna).


At the very north end of the reservoir, Kiwanis Riverway Park, we pulled the boat out for a snack break and spent some time checking out the area birds. Hopefully a few more challenging subjects for the Sigma lens would be found.

Great Egret and Cormorant north end of Griggs Reservoir, Griggs Reservoir, Canon 60D with Sigma 18-300mm lens, (cropped).

A closer look at the Great Egret, Panasonic G7 Leica 100-400mm lens, cropped, (Donna).

Tree Swallows, Griggs Reservoir, Canon 60D with Sigma 18-300mm lens, cropped.

A male Red-winged Blackbird calls out, Panasonic G7 Leica 100-400mm lens, cropped, (Donna).

Northern Flicker, Panasonic G7 Leica 100-400mm lens, cropped, (Donna).


The below picture is interesting because this Wood Duck duckling, along with three of it’s siblings, was reacting to the presence of our canoe. We never chase birds but these guys shot out of the shoreline brush and took off across the water. Sadly, as we watched them head for another hiding spot, one duckling suddenly disappeared not to be seen again. The victim of a Large Mouth Bass or Snapping Turtle perhaps?

Wood Duck duckling, Griggs reservoir, Panasonic G7 Leica 100-400mm lens, (Donna).


Recent wildflowers seen.

Water Willow, Griggs Reservoir, Canon 60D with Sigma 18-300mm lens, cropped.

Butterfly Weed continues to make it’s presence known in Griggs Reservoir Park.


Along the water’s edge the flowers of the Button Bush have just started to bloom, Griggs Reservoir, Panasonic ZS 50.

Looking into the woods, a Day Lily stands out, Griggs Reservoir Park, Panasonic ZS50.

Spiderwort, Griggs Reservoir Park, Panasonic ZS50.

Moth Mullein, Griggs Reservoir Park, Panasonic ZS50.

Catnip (non-native), Panasonic ZS50.

Wild Rose along Griggs Reservoir, Panasonic G7 Leica 100-400mm lens, (Donna).

Trumpet-creeper along Griggs Reservoir, Panasonic G7 Leica 100-400mm lens, (Donna).

Coneflower, backyard.

Black-eyed Susan, Griggs Reservoir Park, Panasonic ZS50.


Often we find ourselves enchanted by a new view of something seen before. Such was the case with our close up encounter with the Cliff Swallows. Their nest building and graceful flight, what amazing birds! On the same day the celebration may be interrupted by an occurrence, like the sudden disappearance of a duckling, that is hard to watch.

Paddling into Kiwanis Riverway Park, Panasonic FZ200.


Thanks for stopping by.




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The Magic World Of The Very Small

The last few days found us paddling Griggs Reservoir. This time of year we always hope that staying close to the shoreline will result in warbler sightings and perhaps a few pictures. With warblers and other migrants moving through it’s a good time of year. In recent days on the reservoir we’ve even seen Mink along the banks and while walking just south of the dam my wife caught the tail end of a Bald Eagle as it flew overhead.



Bald Eagle over the Scioto River just below Griggs Reservoir, (Donna)


A number of immature Black-crowned Night Herons have also been seen, encouraging because of our recent discovery of one that had met it’s demise at the business end of a abandoned fishing line.


Immature Black-crowned Night Heron, Griggs Reservoir.


Other things were also seen as we made our way along the shore.


A Great Blue Heron takes flight, Griggs Reservoir, (Donna)


Two Wood Ducks seemingly amused by a Painted Turtle or is it the other way around, Griggs reservoir.


A Red-tailed Hawk looks on as we head north along the west shore of the reservoir.


Painted Turtles enjoy posing for the camera much more than some of the other species we encounter, (Donna)


A female Kingfisher actually poses for the camera, Griggs Reservoir.


Walking Griggs Park has been more productive for seeing as well as photographing warblers and other small birds mostly because of the difficulty in controlling and positioning the canoe in the pursuit of small active birds.



A male Bluebird doing what bluebirds do best, Griggs Park.



A male Cardinal, beautiful in the morning sun, Griggs Park.


Eastern Phoebe, Griggs Park.



Black-throated Green Warbler, Griggs Park.




Another view, (Donna)


Carolina Wren sings it’s heart out.


Chipping Sparrow, Griggs Park.


If the warblers aren’t cooperating there may be a butterfly, not always rare, but one we’ve not noticed before.


Checkered Skipper, Griggs Park, (Donna)


Fishing is also getting better as the weather cools with time taken off between casts to do a little house keeping along the shore. What can I say, it’s always there, but as those who read this blog already know, it makes me feel better to pick it up.


Another nice Smallmouth Bass, Griggs Reservoir


Unlike fish that are always returned to the water, the trash covering the bottom of the canoe is not “Catch and Release”!


But recently real magic was discovered within the world of the very small when we spotted countless damselflies mating on fallen autumn leaves floating on the reservoir’s calm surface as we paddled back to our launch site during the warmth of the day. We’d never seen anything like that before.


In the warming late morning sun Dusky Dancer were on every leaf, (Donna)


The bigger the leaf the more damselflies. Sometimes, as we got close, they would swarm over the  canoe.


That’s about it for this post. For us living in northern regions autumn is a great time to be out in nature. A feeling borne from the knowledge that this fleeting time will not last. Thanks for stopping by.


Dew Drop


Should you wish, various prints from this and other posts may be purchased at Purchase a Photo. and Donna’s 2017 Birds of Griggs Park calendar is available at Calendar.


Birding By Canoe, Alum Creek Reservoir

There may be a few birds that are easier to see from a canoe but for us the real reason for using one is that we enjoy messing around in small boats and it does offer a unique perspective on the landscape. The north end of Alum Creek reservoir in central Ohio is a beautiful place to explore. With an endless number of coves you never know what you’ll discover so there’s always anticipation. On the down side, while using binoculars to observe birds is usually not too difficult, taking acceptable pictures is another story as holding the camera steady while you and everything else is moving is almost impossible. The stronger the breeze the greater the challenge so often when we’re in the canoe my wife becomes the photographer and I handle the boat.


The following celebrates a recent adventure on the reservoir:


Exploring a cove.


We often direct our gaze upward as we follow the shoreline.


Looking for birds.


Along the shore a Red-tailed hawk seemed to be tending a nest but no immature birds were seen.


There was no shortage of Baltimore Orioles.


Northern Rough-winged Swallow, (Donna)


Double-crested Cormorants, (Donna).


While enjoying the birds, out of the corner of our eye we noticed a flowering plant unlike anything we recalled seeing before. So often when we discover a “new to us” plant it turns out to be invasive but that was not the case with this one.


Close-up photography of a flower is not easy when you are in a canoe.


Limber Honeysuckle, native to Ohio, very exotic looking.


Another view, (Donna).


Looking up isn’t always necessary, down lower a few birds and turtles also cooperated for the camera.


A Pileated Woodpecker liked something about this log.



How many ducklings can a mother Wood Duck care for?


A moment later they heading up into the grass, (Donna)


Small Map Turtle, (Donna)



Spotted Sandpiper along the shore.


Eastern Spiny Softshell Turtle, (Donna).


There was no shortage of Prothonotary Warblers, (Donna).


Singing, (Donna).


These birds are flexible!, (Donna).



Other plants also fascinated.


Pussytoes, (Donna).


Shoreline grass, (Donna)


Corn Salad, (Donna).


In addition to the birds and fascinating plants my wife spotted this small butterfly.


Pearl Crescent, (Donna).


Pearl Crescent from below, (Donna).


Did I say Alum Creek Reservoir is a beautiful place? It is, but the dark side is that there’s a lot of thrash.


Just part of the trash we collected during our paddle. The bow and stern areas of the canoe were full.


But ending on a more upbeat note:


Cove, Alum Creek Reservoir.


Thanks for stopping by.


A Special Bird a Special Day

Today, the anniversary of my birth, we headed to Griggs Reservoir near our home in the hopes of seeing the Red-throated Loon that had been reported at the reservoir’s south end. It’s a bird that’s not normally seen in central Ohio so it would be a especially nice way to mark the passing of another year. After all, what else do you get someone who has pretty much everything they need or want. Also, if seen, it would be a life bird for me as well as my wife and that is always exciting.


Long story short, we did see the loon, and I received my very special birthday present. However, even more amazing was that just as we arrived and were exiting the car, equipment still in slight disarray, +30 Sandhill Cranes and then a Bald Eagle flew right over our heads. We were so excited about the cranes that when the eagle flew over we were completely taken aback and just watched it fly away cameras in hand, so no flying eagle pictures.



Probably about half the total number of cranes in the group.

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A slightly closer look.

Before spotting  the loon, we walked south, first along the reservoir and then the river. A Cooper’s Hawk flew overhead with what appeared to be a starling in it’s talons, accompanied by a group of the unfortunate victims closest friends. Then, heading across the reservoir, still with it’s prey, it was briefly harassed by a gull before safely reaching the other shore.
Further south along the river we did manage to see some of our other friends.

A male Kingfisher watches from across the river.


A female was much closer on our side of the river. This picture, probably of the same bird, was taken a few days ago, (Donna).


One of two male Wood Ducks seen.


Finally, heading back to the car along the reservoir’s east shore, there it was   .   .   .

At first it seemed that we were only going to see a loon sleeping.


But then it woke up .  .  .

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and treated us to a better view.


For comparison purposes, below are a couple of shots my wife took with her FZ200 superzoom.



Red-throated Loon, (Donna).


Take 2, (Donna).

A hard to beat birthday present.
Thanks for stopping by.

Sometimes It Takes A Knock On The Head

In central Ohio it’s the time of the year when finding subjects that inspire a photograph can be a bit of a challenge. Contemplating a paddle in November, given a suitable day, usually means we’re thinking more about getting exercise than about the birds or other wildlife we might see. But if we happen upon something interesting, such as migrating waterfowl, so much the better. Such was the case a few days ago on Griggs Reservoir.


The sun low in the south, water dark, reflections of naked branches.


One of our favorite coves looks quite different now.


As we paddled, it wasn’t long before we did spot waterfowl.

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Still pretty far away, as I continue to paddle my wife catches a pair of Wood Ducks.

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As we get closer they don’t hang around, (Donna).

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In a second they were gone, (Donna).


A solitary Pie-billed Grebe also makes an appearance


Pie-billed Grebe, not as timid as the Wood Ducks


Not to be completely upstaged by the “ducks”, two hawks watch as we glide by.

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Red-tailed Hawk, (Donna)

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Coopers Hawk, (Donna)




A few days after our paddle, we wanted to get out of the house and enjoy a little nature before a prediction for cold and rainy weather went into effect. Since we weren’t sure when the rain would arrive we decided to travel the short distance to Griggs Park which borders the reservoir and the Scioto River. It was a cloudy/partly sunny day starting out, but the wind, warning of weather soon to change, was strong. Given the conditions, expectations weren’t high.


Along the top of the Griggs Reservoir Dam gulls enjoy a warm but windy November day.


Perhaps a little too windy.


The good news; even on a windy day there’s something to see.

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Mushroom community, (Donna)

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Oyster Mushrooms, (Donna)

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White-breasted Nuthatch, (Donna)

Yellow finger-like fungi 1 111115 Griggs solo walk cp1

Recent rains brought out finger-like fungi, (Donna)

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Shelf fungi, (Donna)


Eastern Wahoo, perhaps the most colorful thing around.


But we had a slightly different priority for this particular day’s walk. During a recent trip we had noticed that along the river below the dam a secluded area in the woods had been commandeered for drinking and perhaps other things. A “hideout” had been fashioned out of available limbs and branches. Based on the accumulation of beer cans, other trash, and the existence of old wood furniture, it appeared that the area was being used on a regular basis. Since the surrounding area, while not a formal park space, is used by numerous people, along with their kids, for walking, exploring, birding, fishing, etc., the hideout had the potential to grow into a real problem. So, with the necessary tools and determination, the area was dismantled and the trash removed. Being a natural area in the middle of the city there is no illusion of permanency but at least for a while the “hideout” is gone.


Reflections along the Scioto River below Griggs Dam.


But the task was not accomplished before an overhanging branch came into contact with the top of my head. Ouch!!! So the real point to this story is not the remediation of the area but the fact that I’m a bit superstitious. You see, normally when I do a good deed, picking up a discarded soda can here or a fast food wrapper there, I imagine good luck will follow. Perhaps we’ll see an unusual bird or something. With that in mind, after my painful encounter with the branch, and with my head still throbbing, I was hoping for something really spectacular.


Amazingly enough as we continued south along the river, it wasn’t long before we heard two birds carrying on quite a conversation  .   .   .

a pair of Bald Eagles!

.   .   .   and they appeared to be working on a nest!


Okay, who’s going to get the next stick?


I got the last one!


Are you sure? Seems like I’m doing most of the work!


So as I finish this post, I’m still excited about the eagles and my head has actually stopped throbbing. It remains to be seen if their efforts at nesting will be successful. While the area around the nest tree isn’t easily accessible, it also isn’t the quietist, and is certainly not remote. But what a treat, and as we often like to say when something of wonder is seen near home, “right within the city limits of Columbus”!


Thanks for stopping by.

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Taking a break during one of our paddles on Griggs Reservoir, (Donna)



A Mink and a Dragonfly

Minks are not something one usually thinks of when exploring natural areas within the confines of a city like Columbus, Ohio. Over the years we’ve seen a few, but they’re rare, and it had been awhile since our last sighting. We debated between a drive to the Hocking Hills, a beautiful area near Columbus, for a fall color hike, or a paddle on the reservoir near our home. We decided to take advantage of a sunny relatively calm day and put the canoe in the water. As you may have guessed, our decision resulted in seeing a Mink and a dragonfly.


Recently, while walking along Griggs Reservoir, color and scenery has been about as good as it gets.

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Along the reservoir, Griggs Park.

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West shore.

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Looking up.

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Walking along the reservoir.

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While we don’t have the brilliant red’s of the state up north, autumn in Ohio has it’s own beauty.



The same color and scenery drew us in as we started our paddle. We had the reservoir to ourselves, not another boat, not even a fisherman, to be seen. For a place in the middle if the city, it was quiet. A very slight 55 degree morning breeze greeted us and we had to keep moving to stay warm. The temperature, the sound of our paddles and that of the canoe as it knifed through the water, as well as the autumn shore quietly passing by, all served to encourage us on.

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Photographing a Griggs Reservoir cove.

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No shortage of leaves on the water

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Hayden Run as it flows into the reservoir.

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Trees and leaves.

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Working our way north.

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Pool along Hayden Run

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The north end of the reservoir has fewer boat docks and can be quite beautiful.

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Green giving way to yellow.

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Cove along the west shore.

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A red leaf!


During recent walks, as well as during our paddle, we’ve seen numerous birds. They’ve been very active.

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A Goldfinch blends in.

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A resident Great Blue Heron enjoying the autumn sun.

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But we get too close.

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Poetry .   .   .

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Cormorants flying high overhead, (Donna).

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A male Wood Duck stays put as two females streak by overhead, (Donna).

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A Nuthatch goes about it’s business along the shore.

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Mallard’s stand at attention, almost, (Donna).

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A Red tail hawk soars overhead, (Donna)

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Male Downy Woodpecker

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A Bluebird seeming to enjoy the fall colors.

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Inspecting it’s new digs, (Donna).

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Yellow-rumped Warbler


Our interest in birds was interrupted when, after travelling about a mile north along the western shore, we saw the Mink. We almost fell out of the canoe. Normally, when one get’s really excited about something seen, you screw up when attempting to photograph it. We were lucky, between the two of us we managed to get a few good shots.

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Mink, (Donna)

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Take 2, (Donna)

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Take 3.


And as if the Mink wasn’t enough, at the very north end of the reservoir we pulled out to explore a low lying often wet area that’s home to birds, insects, and wildflowers .   .   .

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Very north end of the reservoir.


.  .  .  and while there wasn’t much in the way of wildflowers we did manage to discover a new for us dragonfly, an Autumn Meadowhawk. Needless to say we were excited!

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The weathered, sun warmed, surface of a log attracts mating Autumn Meadowhawks, (Donna)


It had been an invigorating, wonderful day, brisk and clear, with some wind, but never enough to effect our speed as we made our way south and home. Thinking about all we had seen, it was hard to believe our good fortune.


Thanks for stopping by.

Spring Wonder at Griggs Reservoir

Spring is a wonderful time of year. It seems that nature is in it’s most generous mood. “New” arrives everyday whether it’s in the form of a bird, flower, or other creature. Places that may seem ordinary later in the year are magically transformed by this new life. Even for those of us that spend large amounts of time walking in the woods or paddling along rivers, this time each year is no less fascinating.  This is certainly the case for a special place to us, Griggs Reservoir and the Scioto River just below the dam, which is not far from our home. For those of you that follow this blog you know we write about this place often. Residents of central Ohio probably know where it is, for all others, it’s located right within the city limits of Columbus, Ohio. For us, this fact greatly contributes to the magic.


In an attempt to document this magic, the photos below are a record of some things seen  over the last two weeks.


 Common Red-breasted Mergansers along the Scioto River.

Common Mergansers 050615 Griggs south cp1-3

Can’t help but think these Red-breasted Mergansers (corrected per reader comment) should be further north by now, (Donna)


The early spring wildflowers are gone but others have taken their place.

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Dame’s Rocket, Griggs Park, (Donna)

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Appendaged Waterleaf along the Scioto, (Donna)

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Wild Stonecrop along the reservoir, (Donna)

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Golden Alexander along the Scioto River, (Donna)


.   .   .   and one of the more unique late spring wildflowers has appeared on the low cliffs along the reservoir.


Wild Columbine along the reservoir

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Wild Columbine typically grows on vertical rock faces.


A good selection of reptiles have also been observed.

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Red Eared Slider, Griggs Reservoir


Northern Water Snake, Griggs Reservoir

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Eastern Spiny Soft Shell, Griggs Reservoir


On one of our paddles, two deer look on as we glide by.

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Whitetail Deer along the shore, Griggs Reservoir, (Donna)


Then there are the birds.

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Tree Swallow, north end of Griggs Reservoir (Donna)

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Prothonotary below the dam, (Donna)

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Prothonotary, below the dam.


Blue-gray Gnatcatchers continue to be a common sighting below the dam.

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Singing Baltimore Oriole (male) along the Scioto River below the dam, (Donna)


Yellow-rumped Warbler, below the dam.


Here till the fall Cedar Waxwings have finally made an appearance, Griggs Park.


Cedar Waxwing


There are mothers and fathers with babies.


Canada Geese share the parenting responsibilities, Griggs Reservoir


 But among the birds, the real treat is the return of mating pairs of Wood Ducks.

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Wood Ducks on the Scioto River below the dam.

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Wood Ducks, Griggs Reservoir

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The female Wood Duck has to have good parenting skills because she’s on her own, Griggs Reservoir cove.

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Not to long after mating the Male Wood Duck will be hard to find, Griggs Reservoir cove.


.   .   .   and it’s all happening so close to our home! What’s happening close to yours?


One of the coves popular with Wood Ducks on Griggs Reservoir. The rock faces in the background are a typical location for Wild Columbine.


Hope you enjoyed and thanks for stopping by.

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